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Roger Corman, king of B-movies, is dead

Without him, New Hollywood might never have existed.

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Roger Corman, king of B-movies, is dead

Without him, New Hollywood might never have existed. Roger Corman gave Francis Ford Coppola the boot, launched Martin Scorsese, discovered Monte Hellman, and pretended to fire the young James Cameron several times. Peter Bogdanovich owes him a lot. Jack Nicholson got his start thanks to him. Don't throw any more away. Roger Corman died on May 9 in Santa Monica (California) and no one can replace him. He was 98 years old and had more than a hundred films to his credit.

At the start, there is an electrical engineer who finds himself a courier at Fox in 1948. There is no stopping him. He climbs the ladder, gains his independence, turns as he breathes (without catching his breath). His filmography is as long as an afternoon on France Cuture. No genre puts him off, western, science fiction, horror, gangster film. This champion of the D system creates his own production house - freedom first. The title of his memoirs pretty much defines the character: How I made 100 films without ever losing a cent. The resourceful person reuses the sets from the previous film, recovers the meters of saved film. On his sets, no clap: time wasted. For Little Shop of Horrors, he needs two days and one night. The very young Nicholson as a masochistic patient steals the show from the carnivorous plant. In Machine Gun Kelly (1958), there is an unknown man with an impressive build, Charles Bronson. In Bloody Mama (1970), which is comparable to Bonnie and Clyde, Robert de Niro lost thirteen kilos to play a drug addict (he took revenge by gaining thirty to play Jack La Motta in Raging Bull). He hires Vincent Price, rescues Boris Karloff from oblivion, calls on Robert Towne, the future screenwriter of Chinatown. In Wild Angels (1966), he hires real Hell's Angels who threaten to kill him and demand 4 million dollars. The director shrugs his shoulders. In a leather jacket, Peter Fonda is already riding a Harley Davidson. Corman will also regret having withdrawn from the Easy Rider project whose budget he found too high. Another of his disappointments was the failure of The Intruder (1962) where a fanatic arrives in a small southern town to oppose anti-segregationist measures.

He did not lack ambition. He completed an Edgar Poe cycle, had considered adapting Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man after Joyce or The Penal Colony by Kafka. His professional conscience led him to taste LSD before kicking off The Trip. His credo led him to support original theories: "If edited correctly, a classic horror film sequence is equivalent to a sexual act." However, his work apparently does not include any porn. His clergyman physique allowed him to obtain a role in The Godfather 2. In his office, posters from May 68 covered the walls. He collected racing cars (“the only crazy things I allowed myself”), distributed Amarcord and Cris et chuchotements in the United States (“We were the first to put Bergman in drive-ins”), owned a vineyard in California. In the Times, critic Vincent Canby wrote: "As an author, Mr. Corman can be elevated to the Pantheon along with John Ford, Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, D.W. Griffith, Nicholas Ray, Charlie Chaplin and Samuel Fuller." One may find the judgment excessive. Roger Corman was this prolix craftsman who moved faster than his shadow. For him, being a serious director would have been too easy a task. “I’ve always been a sprinter, not a distance runner.” Given the age at which he died, it is safe to say that he was wrong: he won this marathon that is life hands down. His motto was not so foolish: “It is what it is. The monster wins in the end.” This time, the monster has won for good.

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